CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- The new voice of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese is a homeless man and former drug addict.
Ted Williams, the Columbus, Ohio, panhandler who has become an overnight sensation ever since a local newspaper posted video of him showing off his golden pipes Monday, will lend his voice to a new ad for the brand that will debut Sunday, Kraft Foods told Ad Age.
"Like many others, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and our ad agency was moved by Ted Williams' story," Kraft spokeswoman Lynne Galia said in an email. "His amazing voice is perfectly suited to our campaign. We were in the middle of making our TV spots and in a unique position to help Ted use his great voice to gain employment."
Mr. Williams foreshadowed his new gig during an appearance today on the "Today" show, saying he was on his way to record the ad right after the live interview.
Asked how he would make the pitch, he said, "When you're looking for a cheesy product, a very delicious macaroni and cheese, choose Kraft."
The ad, by Mac & Cheese roster agency Crispin, Porter & Bogusky, will debut on ESPN Sunday night during the telecast of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco.
Mr. Williams, a Brooklyn native who once had a career in radio, has reportedly gotten a slew of interest, including from MTV, ESPN and the National Football League. He told a Cleveland TV station that he plans to take a job with the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers.
"That lady offered me a full-time job with the Cavs and then something about the mortgage of a home? I'm going with that! Out of all the offers that I've had, and I've had quite a few, I'll be working in Cleveland, Ohio," Mr. Williams told the station, Fox 8.
A Columbus Dispatch videographer discovered Williams on a highway exit ramp last month and shot a video of him showcasing his "God-given gift of voice," the paper reported. The clip was uploaded to the paper's website Monday and then posted on YouTube, where, as of this morning, it had more than 11 million views.
Mr. Williams' most recent job was doing voiceovers for a Columbus FM radio station and was laid off in 1997 when the station was acquired by another station, the Dispatch reported. But his life had started to spin out of control years earlier. He served three months in prison for theft in 1990 and another two months in 2004 on charges including theft and forgery, the Dispatch reported.
Mr. Williams told "Today" that he lost his home in 1993 when he was doing cocaine and "drinking like a fifth a day."
"My life just went to the pits," said Mr. Williams, who added he is now sober.
Despite his checkered past -- and even if he were to get in trouble again -- Kraft faces little risk in using him because everybody loves a redemption story, said Carol Phillips, a branding expert and president of Brand Amplitude.
"It's like practically free publicity," she said. "It's showing that they are in the pop culture and responding. I think there's a lot more upside than downside."